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Overbetting The River With Daniel Negreanu

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Jan 24, 2024

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Jonathan Little If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out Jonathan Little’s elite training site at PokerCoaching.com/CardPlayer.I was recently re-watching some ‘retro’ high roller events and I saw an interesting hand from poker legend Daniel Negreanu that was especially interesting.

It’s a $100,000 buy-in super high roller event in the Bahamas with blinds at 6,000-12,000 with a 2,000 ante. (You can see how far we’ve come since 2018 with the big blind ante.)

Everyone folded around to Ivan Luca, a world-class, overly aggressive player, who raised to 30,000 out of his 1,500,000 effective stack from the lojack seat. Daniel Negreanu called with 2Heart Suit 2Club Suit from the hijack seat.

Daniel has all the options at his disposal with pocket twos. Calling to try to flop a set in position is certainly an acceptable play, but if he expects someone yet to act to frequently three-bet, he should instead either three-bet himself or fold.

Calling essentially announces that he is not too worried about someone yet to act getting out of line, which made sense given the way the action had progressed so far throughout the day.

Three-betting may make sense if he thinks Ivan will rarely pay him off if he flops a set in a small pot, but for the most part, small pairs do not want to three-bet before the flop when deep stacked. Folding is also reasonable, but with stacks this deep, trying to flop a set is usually ideal.

Everyone else folded and the flop came 6Diamond Suit 4Club Suit 3Heart Suit. Ivan bet 28,000 into the 92,000 pot, and Daniel raised to 95,000.

While many players elect to call in Daniel’s shoes because they do not want to play a large pot with a clearly marginal hand, raising accomplishes a few objectives.

When Ivan bets so small (about 33% pot), he is giving himself an excellent price to see the turn when he has over cards, which will be most of the time on this low board. Raising negates those odds, forcing unpaired hands like Q-J to fold and putting slightly better hands like A-K in a rough spot. Raising also allows Daniel to bluff out some better hands on the turn or river if the board gets scary.

While calling is certainly fine, raising is a strong play that will put Ivan in a tough spot with much of his range.

Ivan called Daniel’s raise. The turn was the 3Spade Suit and both players checked.

I was surprised by Daniel’s check, although it may make sense, depending on how he structures his flop raising range. If Daniel had a full house, he would definitely want to continue value betting in order to build a giant pot when he is against an overpair, which makes me think he should continue betting with at least some of his bluffs in order to be somewhat balanced.

Depending on Daniel’s flop strategy, he may either have a lot of bluffs or relatively few at this point. While I don’t expect many decently strong hands like overpairs to fold to a turn bet, I do expect some of them to fold to a turn plus river bet. Perhaps Daniel’s plan was to raise the flop to protect his hand from the various unpaired hands and then check down if called, which seems reasonable.

The river was the 8Club Suit. Ivan checked and Daniel overbet 400,000 into the 284,000 pot.

I am not a huge fan of bluffing the river, mainly because the overpairs Daniel is trying to make fold are all quite strong. Also, I do not think many players would check behind on the turn with full houses, so the only value hand that makes logical sense to play this way is 8-8, and there are only three combinations of those.

Much to my surprise, Ivan quickly folded 9-9.

I was obviously very incorrect about how Ivan would respond to a large bet. Perhaps he thought Daniel would almost never bluff when using an overbet. If you can find a betting line that will make your opponent fold hands as strong as overpairs, and overpairs are some of the best hands they could possibly have, then your betting line is excellent. (And probably ahead of its time even six years ago!)

Both players finished in the money and made the final table, which was stacked with some of the winningest players of all time in Isaac Haxton, Justin Bonomo, and Bryn Kenney. Ivan finished in fifth place, earning $402,700, while Daniel one-upped him in fourth place for $521,140. The title ultimately went to PokerGO founder Cary Katz, who won $1,492,340.

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Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.

*Photo credit – Neil Stoddart/PokerStars